Because You Asked - “The Cradle of Life”

I’m opening the offseason mailbag and sorting the questions according to how often they’ve been repeated to me. “A lot” goes in the pile to my left. “A heck of a lot” goes to my right.

I can’t get to all of them this morning, but it’s a long offseason. There will be other days and more sequels.

I’m running out of titles. All nominations are welcome. Just know that “Electric Boogaloo” is off the board. I used that one a few years ago.

How can the Orioles improve their rotation if they don’t spend a lot of money on it?
They can find upgrades on the free agent market that don’t break the bank. The rotation posted the worst ERA in club history. The bar hasn’t been raised to nosebleed level. And there will be trade talks at the GM meetings, the Winter Meetings and into spring training.

Who are the most likely free agent pitching targets?
Using a combination of speculation and common sense, I’d say a few possibilities include Miguel Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Jason Vargas, Andrew Cashner and Josh Tomlin if the Indians decline his $3 million option. They’ll be in on Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, but the price might be prohibitive. Since it isn’t my money, I’d go hard after Cobb.

Any chance that the Orioles try to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta?
Yes. There’s also the chance that Jim Palmer attempts another comeback and wins the ERA title. Between the two, I’d bet on Cakes.

Will the Orioles try to re-sign Chris Tillman?
I certainly don’t get the sense that they’ve moved on from him. They have multiple openings in the rotation and could bring back Tillman on a one-year deal. There’s comfort on both sides. I doubt that Tillman would run screaming from hitter-friendly Camden Yards and the American League East while trying to reestablish his value in the pitching market. A “normal” offseason and spring training could do wonders for Tillman, who fell behind and never caught up.

What do you cover in the offseason?
The Orioles. It’s a year-round gig.

Will the Orioles pick up Wade Miley’s $12 million option?
I wrote about the possibility earlier in the summer. The Orioles were open to the idea, knowing the going rate for pitching and how they’ll need a left-hander in the rotation. But Miley’s 9.74 ERA and 1.967 WHIP in five September starts probably settled the debate.

What’s your favorite Tom Petty song?
“A Woman in Love” from the Hard Promises album.

Have you ever made any hard promises?
Let’s move on.

Could the Orioles trade Mark Trumbo?
He isn’t untouchable and I’m sure they’d do it if they could get back a starter. His contract obviously makes it more challenging, and his drop in production from 2016 makes him a harder sell. The Orioles would need to find a team that’s looking to move a starter’s contract and has a specific need that Trumbo could fill.

Will the Orioles try to trade Zach Britton?
Not according to executive vice president Dan Duquette.

Will the Orioles try to trade Manny Machado?
See above.

Manny-Machado-hand-up-white-sidebar.jpgShould the Orioles try to trade Britton or Machado?
I’d listen on anyone. I’d also have to be overwhelmed by an offer. I wouldn’t make a trade just for the sake of making a trade. And there has to be some sort of a third base plan without Machado. The drop in talent could shatter kneecaps, but there must be a way to soften the landing. I’m open to suggestions.

Is Ryan Mountcastle the future third baseman?
I guess this qualifies as a suggestion. Mountcastle can’t wear that label so soon after moving over from shortstop. The Orioles are determining whether he can handle the hot corner. If not, they need to find a spot for him across the diamond or in the outfield. Anywhere that allows them to keep his bat in the lineup. It’s ridiculous to suggest that he could replace Machado next year if the Orioles dealt the Platinum Glove winner. Which they don’t intend to do.

Do you cover the Ravens when baseball season is over?
No. Just the Orioles.

Is Buck Showalter a candidate to manage the Phillies?
People keep connecting those dots because the Phillies organization is loaded with former Orioles employees, including Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, Ned Rice and Joe Jordan, but Showalter has another year remaining on his contract. He isn’t free to interview for any other position. But that hasn’t stopped some folks in the media from putting him on the list.

Got a World Series pick?
Orioles over Reds in five games. Would have been a sweep except Eddie Watt served up a home run to Lee May and ...

Got a World Series pick this year?
I’ll say Astros over Dodgers in seven games. Guess I should have waited to hand the trophy to the Indians. Awkward. Can someone help me remove all this plastic on the lockers?

Do you think Welington Castillo will opt out of his contract?
OK, let’s get one thing straight: The Orioles don’t do opt-outs. It’s a player option. Drop and give me 20.

Going back to my original question, will Castillo exercise his option?
That’s the assumption. He should be able to land a multi-year deal instead of settling for $7 million next summer. Check the list of free agents. He’s quite a catch.

I see what you did there.
Not a question, but thanks.

How much is the qualifying offer this winter?
As Tim Dierkes of first reported, the qualifying offer has gone up slightly from $17.2 million to $17.4 million. I was expecting it to climb over $18 million. It isn’t much concern to the Orioles unless they’re interested in a free agent who’s been offered one.

When do pitchers and catchers report to spring training?
Technically it’s Feb. 13, but guys start showing up in January. These aren’t the Lauderdale days when players waited as long as possible, often times phoning a team official at night and saying, “I’m here. See you tomorrow.”

Why don’t the Orioles just release Ubaldo Jiménez and eat the rest of his contract?
This is an old one. Must have gotten stuck at the bottom of the bag. Jiménez is a free agent. It’s no longer necessary to scream for his release. Save your voices.

Why don’t you include Alex Wells when writing about rotation candidates?
Because he spent the summer at low Single-A Delmarva. That would be an Olympic-worthy jump. Wells will begin the 2018 season at high Single-A Frederick. Let’s give him a little more time.

What do you write about now that the Orioles are done playing?
I’m working on a screenplay.

Shameless plug alert: I’m also appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.

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